The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

Crossing Wyoming

Sunday, May 29th, 2011 in Wyoming
Crossing Wyoming 1

I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. I thought crossing Wyoming would be a cinch. Just a bit of straight-line driving. What I didn’t count on were the blinding skies, the car-jerking winds and the absolute, sheer, awesome hugeness of the place. I just didn’t get how vast Wyoming is until I tried to drive from Cheyenne to Moran. I thought we’d be there by lunchtime. I also thought it was springtime. Turns out, I was wrong on both counts.

Wyoming landscape

Wyoming isn’t just big, it’s big and empty. I have a copy of the National Geographic Road Atlas, Adventure Edition that I keep in my car. It’s packed with superb maps and tons of facts. Facts like this: the population of Wyoming totals 563,626 people. That’s a shockingly small tally, especially to an upper midwesterner like myself. There are 712,453 people in my home county alone. Not surprisingly, Wyoming holds the distinction of being the least populated state in the union. That fact started to look inherently obvious to me somewhere just northwest of Laramie.

Wyoming landscape

I guess, amid all the crazy, work-hazy, rushing around that shrouded our departure, I didn’t stop to think about how much driving we faced on this vacation. I didn’t pause to contemplate the number of miles that stretch westward from the shores of Lake Michigan to the bulging belly of the Yellowstone Caldera.

That isn’t to say that I was negligent or niave in planning the trip. I had carefully calculated the mileage for the entire journey. I had constructed an itinerary that seemed sensible. But I just didn’t figure on how tired I would be at the beginning of the journey.

The long hours in the car over the past two days have been difficult because they’ve added layers of stress to an already thick foundation of chronic job-borne anxiety. It’s a shame to live life in the shadows of stress. Today, it meant that my initial memories of the drive from Cheyenne to Moran were dull and narrow. I spent most of the drive concerned about getting to the hotel on time, worried that the snowstorm that was forecast to hit the Teton Range this afternoon would prevent us from getting into the park.

Wyoming landscape

But now—as I sit in our room at Jackson Lake Lodge browsing the random photos I snapped during today’s drive—I realize the immense beauty of Wyoming. I realize that Wyoming is a magnificent state, one that you should never rush across (no sense trying, you can’t).

My goal for these next few days is to forget my worries, relax and open my eyes to the wonderful things that are right in front of me. Or out the passenger-side window:

Wyoming landscape
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Assortment

Tundra Trails
Tundra Trails
On Sunday morning, I decided to drive up into the mountains not because the weather was good but because the weather was gloomy. My reasoning was that any day in the mountains is a beautiful day.
Exploring Yosemite Valley
Exploring Yosemite Valley
One of my favorite things we did during our short stay in Yosemite was to take a long evening walk through Yosemite Valley. Since few people were left in the park by this time, it was like we had traveled back in time to a less hectic era.
Acclimation
Acclimation
This caliber of cold takes some getting used to. I thought I would ease myself into it by going for a short ten-minute walk to get acclimated to the arctic air.